06:53 GMT +314 November 2019
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    Trump Calls to Ukraine's Zelensky Seeking Biden Probe at Center of Whistleblower Complaint - Report

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    A July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which US President Donald Trump reportedly asked him to investigate former US Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his ties to a Ukrainian gas company probed several years ago for corruption, was reportedly the subject of the repressed whistleblower complaint.

    Trump reportedly asked the Ukrainian leader eight times to open the investigation in conjunction with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who had engaged in talks on the subject with Zelensky’s representatives several times earlier this year, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal Friday.

    “He told him that he should work with [Mr. Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know” whether allegations were true that Joe Biden had shielded his son from a corruption probe by Kiev in 2016 by urging the Petro Poroshenko administration to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. At the time, Shokin was elbow-deep in an investigation of Burisma Holdings, a Cyprus-based natural gas firm operating in the Ukrainian gas sector, and for which Hunter Biden sat as a board member.

    Friday evening, the Washington Post reported that the conversation was the subject of an undisclosed whistleblower complaint filed last month by an unnamed US intelligence official alleging Trump made an inappropriate promise to a foreign leader. The Trump administration has blocked Congressional viewing of the complaint, and Trump said on Friday it was “just another political hack job.”

    At a Council on Foreign Affairs forum in January 2018, the elder Biden, who is now seeking the Democratic Party nomination for president in the 2020 election, explained in detail how he forced Shokin’s termination:

    “I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from [Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t. So they said they had - they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to - or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said - I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion,” Biden told the crowd.

    “I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a b***h. He got fired,” Biden said.

    Giuliani told CNN last month that he had talked several times this year with Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak about opening a probe into the Bidens. However, Giuliani told CNN that it was Yermak who was pursuing the probe and that he had demurred at their July meeting in Madrid.

    However, Giuliani did prod the former VP in a late-night Thursday tweet, dropping a video of the above-quoted CFR anecdote.

    ​The Journal’s sources noted that, unlike Biden, there was no indication Trump had “offered the Ukrainian president any quid-pro-quo for his cooperation on any investigation.” That said, Giuliani and Yermak’s August meeting came just weeks before the Trump administration was set to review its annual $250 million aid payment to Ukraine, the WSJ noted.

    In a statement Friday evening, Joe Biden demanded Trump release a transcript of his call with Zelenskyy.

    ​"If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country. This behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our country and undermines our national security for political purposes. It means that he used the power and resources of the United States to pressure a sovereign nation - a partner that is under direct assault from Russia - pushing Ukraine to subvert the rule of law in the express hope of extracting a political favor," Biden said.

    "Such clear-cut corruption damages and diminishes our institutions of government by making them tools of a personal political vendetta. At minimum, Donald Trump should immediately release the transcript of the call in question, so that the American people can judge for themselves, and direct the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to stop stonewalling and release the whistleblower notification to the Congress," he said.

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    Tags:
    Wall Street Journal, chief prosecutor, Whistleblower, Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani, corruption probe, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, Donald Trump, Volodymyr Zelenskiy
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